"I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city."

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“I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city." --James Joyce, Aug1904

In 1914, the same year that The Egoist began to serialize James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce published another kind of portrait—Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories. In its representation of what one character calls "Dear dirty Dublin," the book is not only a picture of the city of Joyce's youth, it is also an illustration of the contrary impulses of the exiled artist. What is dear in Dublin stands in Joyce's vision alongside the dirty, and Joyce's tour of the city spares us nothing. The same "glow of a late autumn sunset" that covers green and lush walks also "cast[s] a shower of kindly golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men" (p. 65). Joyce is as likely to describe a man passed out in a pub bathroom as lamplight falling on the curve of a girl's neck.

In the story "A Little Cloud," Gallaher, who is returning from London, designates Dublin as both "dear " and "dirty." Like Joyce, Gallaher brings an outsider's perspective to the city, raising the question of whether clarity and objectivity are best attained from a distance. Joyce left Dublin in 1904, frustrated with the oppressive twin forces of religion and politics that paralyzed the soul of the city. He called Dubliners a "chapter in the moral history of my country." Despite his confession in a letter that "the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories," these are not the bitter tales of an exiled writer seeking revenge against the city that threatened to stifle his creative talents. Instead, the irony, the anger, and the heartbreak found in these stories express as much affection as critique. While Joyce clearly denounces Farrington's violence in "Counterparts," in "The Dead" he depicts a complicated marriage filled with secrets, but also with love. Because it intermingles hope and despair, Dubliners cannot be reduced to an unequivocal statement about the city and its dwellers.

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A number of phrases in Dubliners suggest the narrowness and limits against which the characters struggle. An ever present "channel of poverty and inaction" (p. 35) often leads to a life of "commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness" (p. 33). In many of the stories, husbands feel "savage and thirsty and revengeful" (p. 88), while wives "after a quarter of a century of married life [have] very few illusions left" (p. 156). Trapped by alcoholism, sexual repression, and poverty, Joyce's citizens cannot summon Gallaher's energy to "revolt against the dull inelegance" of the city (p. 68). When characters make an effort ...

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